Inequalities, assessment and computer algebra

Christopher J. Sangwin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The goal of this paper is to examine single variable real inequalities that arise as tutorial problems and to examine the extent to which current computer algebra systems (CAS) can (1) automatically solve such problems and (2) determine whether students’ own answers to such problems are correct. We review how inequalities arise in contemporary curricula. We consider the formal mathematical processes by which such inequalities are solved, and we consider the notation and syntax through which solutions are expressed. We review the extent to which current CAS can accurately solve these inequalities, and the form given to the solutions by the designers of this software. Finally, we discuss the functionality needed to deal with students’ answers, i.e. to establish equivalence (or otherwise) of expressions representing unions of intervals. We find that while contemporary CAS accurately solve inequalities there is a wide variety of notation used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-93
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology
Issue number1
Early online date18 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2015


  • automatic assessment
  • computer algebra
  • inequalities
  • reasoning


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